Layered Decades of Art
by Gerald Mead
Historic works on view and for sale at Dana Tillou Fine Arts
The holidays bring scores of opportunities for buying art, and Allentown continues to be a suitable locus for that purpose. One location that might lay claim to being the oldest commercial gallery for art (and antiques) in the city is Dana Tillou Fine Arts, a business that since 1965 has operated out of a stately brick French Empire style building with mansard roof located on the corner of Virginia and Franklin Streets. For more than 40 years, owner Dana Tillou has specialized in 18th- and 19th-century American and European furniture, decorative items such as Asian porcelain and folk art, and a notable range of historic paintings, prints and drawings.
Winter Fun on Grant Street
Fundraiser bazaar for PUSH Buffalo @ Grant Street Gallery
If you’re sick of being trapped inside the shopping mall during the holidays, try something more refreshing: Join PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing) this Friday (Dec. 18) as they transform the Grant Street Gallery into a colorful and vibrant marketplace, complete with vendors from Buffalo’s own West Side neighborhoods. A percentage of the sales will go to PUSH Buffalo, a nonprofit community organization working to implement action-oriented plans for addressing the lack of living-wage jobs and the poor housing conditions on Buffalo’s West Side.
Among the many vendors involved in the event is El Buen Amigo, a nonprofit import store in Allentown that offers handcrafted art and goods from Central and South America, Fair Trade cooperatives. You’ll find a beautiful arrangement of jewelry, handmade pottery and tapestries, decorative mirrors, clothing, handbags, and a variety of other authentic Latin American crafts. The store is also involved in community awareness projects, including in-shop Spanish lessons, musical performances, and educational field trips aimed at creating awareness on topics like fair trade, globalization, and Latin American culture.
Soap Works will also set up shop in the gallery, displaying a variety of handcrafted soaps infused with a blend of natural oils, extracts, and fragrances. The modus operandi of this Grant Street business goes beyond the creation of aromatic soaps: Soap Works is one of three businesses managed by a nonprofit organization, On the Job Ministries, which trains, employs, and mentors at-risk youth living on the West Side. All profits made from the sale of their soap goes towards the hiring of more youth, expanding and starting new businesses. Each bar of soap is mixed, tested, cut, and labeled by hand. Some of their (inedible) fragrances: pearberry, oatmeal milk and honey, pomengranate, lavender, and patchouli.
Other vendors include: Designs by Dovi and Girls (handmade African designs), JJ’s Jams, Tyshawns Original Airbrushing, Rmah Market (Mediterranean and African clothing), Pamela Grace Designs, and Handmade Designs from Burma.
The event will also feature local performers: Daughters of Creative Sound, Ismail & Co., 12/8th Path Band, Noel Smith, Andrew J. Reimers, and Roaring Sequoia.
Grant Street Gallery is at 216 Grant Street, next to Sweetness 7 Cafe. The opening reception is Friday, December 18, 5-10pm. No worries if you can’t make the opening reception on Friday; the gallery will be open all weekend.
Tillou periodically assembles a special exhibition for the holidays, and this year’s offering, grandiosely titled 150 Years of Fine Art Exhibition and Sale: Traditional to Contemporary, is a compelling reason to visit the space and experience a good primer of some of the significant artists who shaped (and some who continue to shape) the art history of our region. The owner himself is intertwined with that history since he is the son of the late Virginia Tillou, a well respected regional artist who was one of the three “grand dames’ of the Buffalo art scene in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s—the other two were Virginia Cuthbert and Martha Visser’t Hooft. Through his mother and the parties she hosted after the Albright-Knox’s annual Western New York Exhibitions, Tillou met many of the artists of the day and even recalls visiting Charles Burchfield’s studio. Drawing on his wide-ranging knowledge of regional art, he guest curated an exhibition for the (then) Burchfield Center in 1982, Buffalo’s sesquicentennial year, titled One Hundred and Fifty Years of Portraiture in Western New York. In its catalog, Tillou described the exhibition as an “opportunity to see old and new friends, people who are part of the great heritage of Western New York.”
The same could be said about his current exhibition, which consists of works from his gallery’s inventory and private collections or estates. The additional benefit here is to see the artwork displayed in one of Allentown’s emblematically historic residences.
There are several standouts in this exhibition of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits primarily by Western New Yorkartists. The first is an original poster from Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition by Evelyn Rumsey Cary. This tour de force of Art Nouveau design with its depiction of the “Spirit of Niagara” was one of the iconic images promoting the event across the globe. A massive collaged lithograph titled Composition in Red and Black from 1967 by Louise Nevelson is a superb example of the artist’s reductive approach to shape and form. Finally, Virginia Tillou’s large 1980 canvas Corner Plant Room—Winter (ironically painted in the artist’s studio two floors above the gallery) depicts a room/view from the building’s second floor that was the longtime residence of the artist’s family. Its subject—a domestic interior with a glass top table, chairs. and other objects—is characteristic of Ms. Tillou’s best work.
There are a number of exceptional landscapes from nearly all eras the exhibition encompasses including 19th century European works, Carl Peter’s vibrant 1925 oil painting The Pier, Arthur Lindberg’s 1950 Boatyard with Buffalo View, and a few vigorously rendered water media paintings by Robert Blair. There are even a few intriguing connections to Charles Burchfield through works by two highly regarded contemporary artists, Walter Garver and John Yerger. Garver’s large watercolor House on the Hill was done in 1951 while Garver was enrolled in Burchfield’s painting class and Yerger’s exacting trompe l’oeil oil on panel work titled Homage to Burchfield completed just last year is part of the artist’s critically acclaimed series of still-life tribute paintings that pictorially reference prominent American artists.
The diverse history of the region continues to be told through abstract compositions by Seymour Drumlevitch, Lawrence Calcagno and Martha Visser’t Hooft and keenly rendered pastel portraits by Hal English. The current generation of artists is represented by Charles Houseman’s atmospheric landscapes, Joseph Whalen’s satirical view of an old barn with its tattered “For Sale by Owner” sign and Pat Fortunato’s poignant watercolor of a sunlit robe.
This exhibition and sale, rewarding on many levels, is on view through January 10.
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